Federal government discovers attempted cyberattack on an undersea cable in Hawaii

Coverage Type: 

A cyberattack targeting an underwater cable that could have shut down telephone services, financial transactions, internet and cable connectivity in Hawaii was foiled by federal agents with Homeland Security Investigations. The servers of a private Oahu company responsible for managing a trans-Pacific undersea cable that connects Hawaii and the Pacific region were targeted by an international hacking group, according to HSI, the investigative unit of the US Department of Homeland Security. Acting on a tip from out-of-state colleagues, federal agents identified the cyberattack and took measures to block access, according to HSI. A suspect was arrested in an “international location.” More than 95 percent of international data and voice transfers are routed through fiber-optic cables laid across the seafloor, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. What happens when an island loses complete connectivity became apparent in October 2019 when an islandwide outage of phone service, the 911 system and internet and cable TV service occurred on Kauai after a third-party carrier’s network fiber was damaged. “Hawaii is absolutely dependent on the trans-Pacific and undersea cables for our connectivity,” said Burt Lum, broadband strategy officer for the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism. “If they did a massive cyberattack that potentially hit multiple trans-Pacific lines … and they were able to somehow sever redundant paths, you could put a lot of businesses out of commission as well as affect the ability for the Department of Defense to communicate from Hawaii.”

Isle cyberattack thwarted